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A new vision for Framingham’s Shoppers World

Plans call for two new buildings to be constructed on an existing parking lot across from the AMC Theaters and adjacent to Shoppers World.
Plans call for two new buildings to be constructed on an existing parking lot across from the AMC Theaters and adjacent to Shoppers World.BOSTON GLOBE/FILE/Boston Globe

The owners of Shoppers World in Framingham have proposed a major expansion that would add entertainment and housing to help diversify and freshen up a property known as one of the nation’s first suburban malls.

DDR Corp. is looking to partner with The Bozzuto Group to build a new seven-story building on Flutie Pass in Framingham that would have 136 multi-family apartment units over five floors, a residential parking level, and bottom-floor retail space with Kings bowling.

A second building that would house an indoor skydiving facility has been proposed nearby on land located in Natick.

“The town of Framingham has encouraged us to explore this type of mixed-use project in what is otherwise a heavily dominated retail trade area,’’ Jeff Martin, vice president of development with DDR Corp. said in an email.

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“We see the benefits of densification — creating a project that can support shopping, dining, and entertainment all under a single roof — which will cut down the amount of single-purpose vehicular trips, foster a sense of community and promote a more vibrant experience.’’

Currently, Shoppers World is a 100 percent-leased, 783,856-square-foot shopping center anchored by Marshalls, Best Buy, Nordstrom Rack, Kohl’s, TJ Maxx and AMC Theatres

DDR would own and manage the retail component of the expansion, and Bozzuto, the housing. Plans call for the new buildings to be constructed on an existing parking lot across from the AMC Theaters and adjacent to Shoppers World.

Shoppers World first opened in 1951. The original buildings, including a gigantic dome above Jordan Marsh, were torn down in 1994 to make room for a new shopping plaza bearing the same name. Within the past year, DDR, which has owned the property since 1995, signed new tenants including Cost Plus World Market and Chick-fil-A.

Earlier this year, DDR presented plans to officials in Framingham and Natick for retail, entertainment and restaurant space but no housing.

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Martin said the residential component was added to the Framingham proposal after the town updated its zoning bylaws to encourage mixed-use development within the area around Shoppers World.

“The attraction to mixed-use development today is undeniable and this is an opportunity to deliver a project to the market that is more than just a large retail offering — something that could create a vibrant community where people want to spend an extended period of time,’’ he said.

In order for the project to move forward, DDR needs two zoning variances from the town. One is a special permit that would allow for residential construction at the site, and the other is related to the height of the building, which would be about 85 feet.

The Framingham Zoning Board of Appeals is expected to make a decision at a meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 23. If the variances are approved, the project would move to the town’s Planning Department for site plan approval.

If the project is approved, DDR hopes to start site work construction later this fall. The retail component would likely open prior to the residential occupancy in early 2018. Martin said it has not been determined if the project will move forward without the variances for housing.

Arthur Robert, Framingham’s director of community and economic development, said there is no doubt that the entire region needs more housing. He said the question is whether the Shoppers World area is an appropriate location for the type of mixed-use development being proposed. He said officials are starting the process to help identify what locations in town, other than the central business district, are best suited for mixed-use projects.

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The owners of Shoppers World want to build a new seven-story building on Flutie Pass in Framingham that would have 136 multi-family apartment units over five floors, a residential parking level, and bottom-floor retail space with Kings bowling.
The owners of Shoppers World want to build a new seven-story building on Flutie Pass in Framingham that would have 136 multi-family apartment units over five floors, a residential parking level, and bottom-floor retail space with Kings bowling. Cube 3 Studio

Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at jflefferts@yahoo.com.